What Causes a Root Canal Infection and How to Treat it

Our teeth are made up of layers, the innermost layer is called the pulp. It is a collection of soft tissues which hold our nerves and blood vessels. When bacteria invade the pulp and begin to cause issues, it is known as a root canal infection. There are a few signs and symptoms to watch out for. Root canal infection can be quite painful and left untreated, may result in tooth loss. 

At Boon Dental, we have successfully treated many cases of root canal infection. In this article, we discuss the causes of root canal infection and how to treat it. 

Signs and symptoms of root canal infection

When your root canal becomes infected it is important to act quickly. When treated early you can avoid further damage to the tooth and possible tooth loss. If the infection is left untreated, it can spread to your face, jaw and even your bloodstream. Luckily, when treated early, most root canal infection can be successfully eradicated. 

Here are a few warning signs to watch out for:


A root canal infection usually causes discomfort. This is because it is located in the pulp which is home to your tooth’s nervous system. It can begin as a dull ache that intensifies when you are chewing. You may also experience extreme sensitivity to temperatures, such as cold and hot food. Sometimes, you can feel pain from the area around the gum. This is  usually accompanied by redness and swelling. If you notice any of  these symptoms, you should contact your dentist. 

Tooth discolouration 

Tooth discolouration can occur once bacteria have entered the pulp. This is because the tissues that live in the root canal are beginning to die. This shows in the form of tooth discolouration, usually turning yellowish and then dark brown. 

Apical abscess

As the root canal infection continues to get worse you may notice an abscess form around the gum. This is your body’s natural defence mechanism to fight off the infection. The abscess is a collection of pus. The problem is it can burst and make the infection worse. An apical abscess can cause sore or swollen lymph nodes, facial and cheek swelling, pain, fever and difficulty swallowing and breathing. Your need to seek urgent dental care in the case of an apical abscess.

Bad breath

Bad bread is a common side effect of any oral infection. For a root canal infection, you may develop chronic bad breath which remains even after brushing. If an abscess has formed, you may also notice a foul taste in your mouth. Once the infection has been treated this should all go away. 

What causes a root canal infection?

The number one cause of root canal infection is tooth decay. If a damaged tooth is left untreated, it begins to decay. This damage may be in the form of a chip, crack or cavity. It begins in the enamel, which is the hard outer layer of our teeth. Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body! But it is still susceptible to damage. 

Once the decay has passed the enamel it hits the dentin, the middle layer of our teeth. Dentin is a porous substance, much like a sponge. The decay will happen much faster from this point because dentin is much softer than enamel. 

After dentin, you get to the innermost layer of our teeth, the pulp. Once the decay has reached this point, you will inevitably get an infection. This is because bacteria have been allowed to enter. This is known as a root canal infection. 

When is treatment necessary? 

Treatment of a root canal infection is almost always necessary. Sometimes it is possible to treat the infection early with antibiotics. However, the infection often becomes recurring. The best way to avoid treatment is to prevent the infection from arising in the first place. 

Root canal treatment involves cleaning out the infected pulp and filling the canal with a special dental substance. This kills the infection and prevents more bacteria from entering the tooth. Often, a root canal treatment is concluded with the placing of a dental crown to restore your tooth’s structure, function and appearance.

How can I avoid a root canal infection?

Luckily root canal infections are avoidable. With good oral hygiene and regular check-ups at the dentist, your teeth can remain healthy. Good oral hygiene means:

  • Brushing twice a day
  • Flossing once a day
  • Using a fluoride-based toothpaste
  • Limiting sugary food and drink
  • Avoiding tobacco 

How Boon Dental can help

Root canal infections can be painful and damaging to our teeth and oral health. If you suspect you may have an infection, then call Boon Dental. We offer 24/7 emergency dental care. Our priority is always your comfort and health.

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